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At the suggestion of my friend, Freddy P., I am writing a book on winning at poker and life. It is designed to show how poker concepts, strategies and tactics apply to our daily lives.

Poker players can transfer skills developed in playing poker to gain more successful and happier lives.

After reading a preliminary draft, Freddy called my attention to the fact self-discipline is the most important trait a poker player can have; and, of course, that also applies to life activities. Self-discipline is essential to winning at poker and success in life. It’s a must! Freddy has demonstrated this in his own life, having been extremely successful in the various endeavors he has chosen to pursue. He’s a winner!

There are many important qualities that can contribute to a person’s achievements and happiness, but only one that produces sustainable, long-term success in all aspects of life, including playing poker – self-discipline.

Studies have shown that those who master self-discipline are better able to deal with conflicts, and to draw prudent conclusions, leading to better decisions. They do not allow their choices to be dictated by personal emotions or wishful hunches.

On the contrary, those who have developed the trait of self-discipline are bound to make well-informed, rational decisions without feeling overly stressed or disturbed – in poker and in life!

Remember: “Act in haste; repent at leisure.” In that regard, self-discipline can help you: Think before you act.

Playing poker takes self-discipline to focus on the game, evaluate your opponents, use poker odds, pull off successful bluffs, build the size of the pot when you hold a monster – in short, to learn and apply the poker skills essential to going home a winner. Widgets


According to a recent feature in Forbes Magazine, despite what you may think, self-discipline is a learned behavior, not innate. It requires practice and frequent repetition. Effort is needed to improve your self-discipline.

Forbes suggests “five proven methods to improve your own self-discipline” – for gaining better control. As a poker player, how can you apply these to improve your self-control at the poker table?

(1) Remove temptations. For example, if you are trying to better control your eating, toss the junk food. If you want to improve your focus while working or while playing poker, turn off your cell phone.

(2) Eat regularly and healthy. When you’re hungry, your ability to concentrate suffers as your brain is not functioning to its highest potential. By regulating your blood sugar levels, healthy eating improves your decision-making skills and concentration.

(3) Don’t wait for it to “feel right.” Improving self-discipline often requires changing your normal routine. Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,: explains that habit behaviors and self-discipline involve different parts of the brain.

“When a behavior becomes habit, we stop using our decision-making skills and instead function on auto-pilot.” Your brain will resist the change in favor of what it has been programmed to do. The solution? Persevere. It will take a while for your new regime to feel natural. It will happen.

(4) Schedule breaks, treats/rewards: “Self-discipline does not mean your new regimen needs to be entirely cold turkey, hard core, or drill sergeant-like in execution.” While pursuing better self-control, schedule breaks, treats, and rewards. Dieting? Designate Saturday as ice cream sundae day. Working on controlling your spending? Allow yourself a $25-splurge at the mall on Sunday. Improving self-discipline can be difficult. Reward your effort.

(5) Forgive yourself and move forward: As you strive to improve your self-discipline, there will be ups and downs. The key is to keep moving forward. “When you have a setback, acknowledge what caused it and move on.” Don’t give up.

Can you identify how these five rules can be applied to improving your poker game?

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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